Goal Setting can be challenging because it challenges you to move beyond your comfort zone. Leaving your comfort zone means traveling into the unknown. Facing your fear head-on is the most important things you can do.
It can be scary and paralyze you if you let it. These challenges are put into our lives to teach us:
1. How strong we really are
2. What we’re truly capable of accomplishing when we put our mind to it
3. How to stand up for ourselves when we need to
4.What our strengths and weaknesses are
5. How to challenge ourselves to move to new heights when necessary
6. how to face our fears
7. How to team up with others to reach a goal
8. Learn to believe in yourself and your true abilities
9. How to accept help from someone else without expecting something in return
10. How to give back what you receive
What it Means to Leave Your Comfort Zone
It’s important to push the boundaries of your comfort zone, and when you do, it’s kind of a big deal.
What is the “comfort zone” exactly?
Why is it that we tend to get comfortable with the familiar and our routines, but when we’re introduced to new and interesting things, the glimmer fades so quickly?
What benefit do we derive from breaking out of our comfort zone, and how do we do it?
Think about each of these questions and decide what they mean to you for yourself.
Your comfort zone is a behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk. It provides a state of mental security. You benefit in obvious ways: happiness, low anxiety, and reduced stress.
Anyone who’s ever pushed themselves to get to the next level or accomplish something knows that when you really challenge yourself, you can turn up amazing results. Pushing yourself too hard can actually cause a negative result, and reinforce the idea that challenging yourself is a bad idea. It’s our natural tendency to return to an anxiety-neutral, comfortable state. You can understand why it’s so hard to kick your brain out of your comfort zone.
What You Get When You Break Free and Try New Things
What do you really get when you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone?
- You’ll be more productive. Comfort kills productivity because, without the sense of unease that comes from having deadlines and expectations, we tend to phone it in and do the minimum required to get by. We lose the drive and ambition to do more and learn new things. We also fall into the “work trap,” where we feign “busy” as a way to stay in our comfort zones and avoid doing new things. Pushing your personal boundaries can help you hit your stride sooner, get more done, and find smarter ways to work.
- You’ll have an easier time dealing with new and unexpected changes. By taking risks in a controlled fashion and challenging yourself to things you normally wouldn’t do, you can experience some of that uncertainty in a controlled, manageable environment. Learning to live outside your comfort zone when you choose to can prep you for life changes that force you out of it.
- You’ll find it easier to push your boundaries in the future. Once you start stepping out of your comfort zone, it gets easier over time.
- You’ll find it easier to brainstorm and harness your creativity. This is a soft benefit, but it’s fairly common knowledge (and it’s easily reproducible) that seeking new experiences, learning new skills, and opening the door to new ideas inspire us and educate us in a way that little else does. Trying new things can make us reflect on our old ideas and where they clash with our new knowledge and inspire us to learn more and challenge confirmation bias, our tendency to only seek out information we already agree with. Even in the short term, a positively uncomfortable experience can help us brainstorm, see old problems in a new light, and tackle the challenges we face with new energy.
The benefits you get after stepping outside of your comfort zone can linger. There’s the overall self-improvement you get through the skills you’re learning, the new foods you’re trying, the new country you’re visiting, and the new job you’re interviewing for. There’s also the soft mental benefits you get from broadening your horizons.
Some ways to break out (and by proxy, expand) your comfort zone without going too far:
- Do everyday things differently. Take a different route to work. Try a new restaurant without checking Yelp first. Go vegetarian for a week, or a month. Try a new operating system. Whether the change you make is large or small, make a change in the way you do things on a day-to-day basis. Look for the perspective that comes from any change, even if it’s negative. Don’t be put off if things don’t work out the way you planned.
- Take your time making decisions. Sometimes slowing down is all it takes to make you uncomfortable—especially if speed and quick thinking are prized in your work or personal life. Slow down, observe what’s going on, take your time to interpret what you see, and then intervene. Sometimes just defending your right to make an educated decision can push you out of your comfort zone. Think, don’t just react.
- Trust yourself and make snap decisions. We’re contradicting ourselves, but there’s a good reason. Just as there are people who thrive on snap decisions, others are more comfortable weighing all of the possible options several times, over and over again. Sometimes making a snap call is in order, just to get things moving. Doing so can help you kickstart your personal projects and teach you to trust your judgment. It’ll also show you there’s fallout to quick decisions as well as slow ones.
- Do it in small steps. It takes a lot of courage to break out of your comfort zone. You get the same benefits whether you go in with both feet as you do if you start slow, so don’t be afraid to start slow. If you’re socially anxious, don’t assume you have to muster the courage to ask your crush on a date right away, just say hello to them and see where you can go from there. Identify your fears, and then face them step by step.